Producing a video can be a time-consuming process. when I produce my own vlogs I can speed up the process because I have filmed and planned every shot. I know what puzzle pieces I have and so it doesn’t take very long for me to edit them together as I already have a finished product in my head that I’m working towards. However, when you are working with people to create a video the process is very different. There needs to be planning and thought put behind every stage of the video creation process. Here are the 3 main stages of video production and what you need to consider in each step.

When working with other professionals and businesses there’s one thing that will make or break your video – that is preparation. One of my favorite and creative filmmakers says:

Planning prevents piss poor performance.

Casey Neistat

The more I’ve worked with individuals and businesses and cut corners (however tiny they may seem at the time) it always comes back to bite me in the arse! Even though it is always tempting to assume something or rush through a process – every time I’ve done it, or been convinced to do it, I pay the price for it at some point.

Here are the 3 main stages of video production broken down for you so you don’t regret missing a stage!

1. Pre-production

Pre-production is everything that happens before you push record on a camera. Here are the things that I like to have ironed out and as clear as possible before I touch any camera or microphone.

It’s at this stage of the process where the real magic happens – the camera is there to capture it not create it!

Concept

The concept stage is the very first stage in content production. It normally starts as a flash of inspiration, a must do idea or something that you feel would work really well. It’s important to be excited by these feelings and these ideas but remember that its the first stage to making something awesome!

Questions to ask yourself at this early time may include:

  • Who is your main audience?
  • Why are you filming?
  • How much time do you have?
  • What is the message of the video?
  • What feeling do you want the audience to come away with?
  • What got you excited about creating the video?
  • What did you want someone to do after watching the video?

A concept can typically result in a creative brief. It’s a simple template that includes a video’s purpose, tone, audience, existing materials, rough plan and, if it is for a business purpose, where it fits in the buyer or customer journey.

Outline and Scripting

Th first draft of the script is to write our everything that happens in chronological order. It can be as messy as you like – even just a simple bullet point outline will do in this early stage of content production.

After the rough outline of the video has been produced you should go through and add as much detail as you think is necessary. For example, if it is a talking head – add a rough outline of what they should say. If you are creating a video for actors – there needs to be a full script that has been looked over by a screen writer and editor.

For most of my clients this process is as easy as working out what they want to say during the filming process. After the script has been finalized you need to have an idea of the shots you need to capture.

Shot list

A shot list is building from the script and maps out exactly what will occur in regards to the video. It serves as a detailed checklist of the shots that you need to collect throughout the filming process.

They are particularly important for bigger productions that need multiple settings or characters. A shot list may include details like:

  • The scene and shot number
  • Location
  • Shot description
  • Framing
  • Action/dialogue
  • Actors involved
  • Props needed
  • Extra notes

You may also want to list the types of shots that you want to capture – these include wide and very wide shots, mid shots, Medium closeups, close ups and extreme close ups. Each shot type should be used to help the viewer feel something – ultra wide shots can be used as a sense of awe or sense of being very tiny in a big world.

Whereas, close ups or extreme close ups can be used to make it feel like you are in an intimate setting or in the characters head as they are thinking.

Writing a comprehensive shot list will help you work out what needs to be captured and help with the story boarding too!

Storyboard

If the video is particularly long or needs to be presented to a number of people – a storyboard is an important step in the process.

Try writng out a storyboard and fill out the scenes that are in the video – it doesn’t even matter f it is just stick men and rubbish drawings – the artwork is not the important aspect of this stage. It is all about running through the shots and story in your mind and bringing the script and shots together.

If you can’t draw, here’s a great video on how to create a storyboard:

When in doubt – start with a wide-angle shot to establish where the action is happening. For my vlogs, I often use drone footage for this purpose. Then mid and close up shots for some shot variety.

Location scout

If you are filming a long corporate or multi-site video you’ll need to spend a little bit of time working out the locations where you are going to shoot.

Quite often, I will attend a workplace a week or so before filming so that I can get a good idea of some in-office shots. I’ll look for lighting, any sound that may be distracting as well as the audio qualities of the room. For me, room noise is one of the most off-putting aspects of any video.

I’ll also see if it is appropriate to fly a drone near or around the location. Getting drone establishing shots is a really awesome way to add a load of shot variety, perceived value and unique selling point for the video!

For most of my videos, there is very little scouting that needs to happen. Sometimes turning up with a camera, shotgun microphone, and recorder and a single light is enough to cover a wide range of video production.

Scheduling

Once you have taken the time to cover all of the above pre-production steps. Setting a schedule in stone and sticking to it is the only way that you will make sure that you deliver everything on time!

Step 1: Start Date

The first thing you need to schedule is when you will start shooting.

You’ll need to determine how much work is required before getting into production. Usually, this will be in the range of weeks or months. Most of the things you will be organizing will depend on the start date, so knowing it as soon as possible will be essential.

Step 2: Length of Shoot

The length of your shoot will vary based on a tremendous amount of variables.

The first is how long your script is or how long the end video will be. Each day that you are shooting can be very expensive. The shorter your shoot, the less costly it will be.

If you re moving to a load of different locations, then you will be spending a lot of time on location moves. So, you may not be able to shoot more than 2 scenes or shots in a day.

Step 3: Day of Shooting

A day of shooting can be up to 12 hours.

Remember that this time frame should include time for setting up and taking down of the lights and microphones. Once the last thing is done and you need to do another day of recording the production must set a call time for the next day no sooner than 10 hours later.

Scheduling is best if you keep it simple and plan to use as little locations as possible. If it starting to feel stressful – then scale back your expectations of the recording and keep it simple.

Casting

The last thing to consider is who will be in your video. Are you going to need people in the background? Are you going to just have a talking head?

Take a time to list all of the people that will need to appear in your video and make sure that they are available on the day of filming.

I like to speak to a few people in the business to find who will be best on camera if they want talking heads. Not everyone is an immediate natural but some people are more comfortable on camera than others. By the way, not everyone who says they are a natural is actually very good without training – use your judgement for who should appear on the video and be the ‘main character’.

Now, with all of the pre-production stuff done and accounted for – it is time for capturing the magic!

2. Production

What you may have noticed in the last 1,500 words is that you do not SEE this component of video production. That is, most of the value of video production is made BEFORE the bit (this stage) that people get excited about.

It’s very cool to have a camera and lighting set up appear in your office – it is very cool to have to look your best and learn a little bit of a script. But the value has already been decided before anyone has even touched a camera.

This stage, however, is what people see and get most excited about. This is where all of the planning, shots, and script come together and we get an opportunity to capture the magic forever!

Don’t get me wrong, I love this stage too – there’s a certain excitement and magic around the production stage of the video process!

Shooting the footage

Pushing record on a camera is the easiest thing in this whole process. You’ve done most of the work you need to to make awesome content but there are a few things you need to do if you want to capture your video or vlog in the best way possible.

Just like the movies – it really comes down to light’s, camera, action!

Lighting

Lighting is a really simple way to determine the mood and feeling of a scene. Lighting a scene well is so important as a camera needs light to function at its best.

There are a number of aspects that you need to consider when setting up lighting for a video project:

  • What is the ambient light like?
  • Are there changing lighting conditions? Like those found outside.
  • What shadows and bounced light can you work within the shot?

Once you have looked at the scene you can then make decisions about what is necessary to light the shot to achieve the mood that you want.

If in doubt – look towards the three point lighting where you use a key light, fill light and backlight. This will set you up the right way and then you can adjust the lighting from there.

The key light

The key light is the main light used to light your scene. It is usually the strongest and it dictates how the image looks on the screen. It is usually placed at about a 45-degree angle to the subject. This provides a well-lit side while the other has some shadow to give the scene some atmosphere.

The fill light

The fill light is placed on the opposite side of the scene and reduces the amount of shadow cast by the key light. It is usually softer and less intense than the key light. If you cannot din the light you can move the fill light further away or use backing paper over the top of the light to make it cast a softer light.

The backlight

A backlight is one of the most underutilized and overlooked lights when lighting a vlog. The backlight lights the subject from behind. This is to give some subtle highlights to the edges of the subject and separate them from the background. In my videos, I often just use a desk lamp or other decorative light to light the background. It doesn’t have to be a super expensive setup.

Avoid placing too much light on the scene as it can quickly become washed out.

Audio

Capturing audio is one of the most over looked aspects of video production. People are very forgiving when it comes to a shot being a little out of focus or over saturated but give them bad audio and they’ll be out of there in a jiffy!

Famous film maker, George Lucas likes to say:

Sound is 50% of the movie-going experience”

George Lucas

Here are some really simple tips that mean you will be able to capture perfect audio for your video production.

Forget about your camera’s onboard microphone

Any camera that you buy will be able to pick up decent video. High definition and even 4K is available for the average user. However, what is common for most consumer-grade camcorders is that the microphones are rubbish!

If you camera has an audio input then you should seriously consider buying an external microphone. This can include:

  • A shotgun microphone
  • Handheld microphone
  • Clip-on lavalier microphone

Working our what will be best for each situation will require a little bit of experimentation. As a rule – the closer to the mouth you can get a microphone the better. Shure’s range of lavalier microphones, for example, are really small so you can easily clip one to a shirt or jacket without it being visible.

A shotgun microphone will help to facilitate interviews where it’s impossible or awkward to attach a lavalier to the guest. And a handheld mic such as Shure’s venerable dynamic SM58 microphone can work both as an in-the-field handheld (or vox pop) interview microphone and can also be used as a podcasting microphone.

Beware – every microphone has a whole range of accessories that you can buy. But you probably don’t need them all!

If you are doing a fair bit of outside recording consider getting a foam or dead cat windshield – even the less expensive options for these will help your sound a load! They can sometimes make the sound a little muddy – so be sure to provide a high-frequency boost to the audio. Some microphones provide this option but ones that do not you can head to your editor and play with the EQ a little bit.

If your camera doesn’t have an audio input – you should consider buying an external portable recorder. I use the H4n Zoom but there are newer options and other brand options too – like Tascam. You can’t really go wrong with a well-known brand.

A portable recorder is able to take inputs from a range of different microphones – so just make sure that the recorder and microphone lead are compatible and you are good to go!

The trick to using a portable recorder is to clap as loud as you can just as you turn both of them on. You them use this clap as the way that you can line the in camera (otherwise called “scratch”) audio up with the externally recorded audio.

Check out this video for easy syncing of audio from an external audio recording:

Once your audio and lighting are sorted – it’s time to push record!

Video

There are so many awesome techniques that you can use to make your videos look professional and amazing. I will be writing a full blog on that! But for now, I’d like to share with you the tips that I have picked up for making sure that you capture some awesome footage without the fuss!

Here are five quick tips that will make sure that you are getting all of the important parts right!

Choose the right background

When recording a video is can be easy to focus on the main act, so to speak. Are they lit well? Are they in focus?

But you should also make sure that the background doesn’t detract from the main message or distract the person viewing the video.

If you are doing a talking head shot – choose a neutral background. An out of focus quiet office environment or single color wall could be your best option. Just make sure that you stand away from the background so that you do not cast a shadow.

Keep it simple – that is the name of the game with backdrops!

Avoid shaky footage

There’s nothing as off-putting as a Blair-witch style shaky cam effect to make your audience feel sick. A lot of the movement can be removed in editing but it does still cause artifacts in your immage.

The best option is to grab yourself a tripod.

A tripod is a sure fire way of getting rid of any camera shaking. It helps keep your content looking professional and allows people to focus on the message of your video.

Avoid doing any unnecessary camera movement. It can feel like you are making the video better when, actually, it’s just going to make it hard to edit later on!

Understand the rule of thirds

The basic principle behind the rule of thirds is to imagine breaking an image down into thirds (both horizontally and vertically) so that you have 9 parts.

You then line up the point of interest with the points where the lines intersect. Take a look at this adorable example of a dog and the rule of thirds.

Your smart phone camera app probably has a grid that you can turn on and use while you are taking a photo.

How to show guides on your phone:

iPhone: Open the Settings app > Camera > Grid and tap/swipe to turn it on.

Samsung Android: Open the camera app > Settings > Grid lines

If you are using your camera it is likely that you will also have the grid guides on your camera to allow you to turn on the grid on the preview screen.

What about square images?

All of my videos until this date are in a square aspect ratio. That is, the videos are as wide as they are tall.

In this case, I find it better to include the point of interest (you) smack bang in the centre of the frame.

But in all of this, the first thing that you want to achieve is getting you in the frame! Don’t let perfection get in the way of progress and put out that content!

Work on your camera presence / know how to coach people on camera presence

When filming your video – you will almost certainly need to film people, or yourself! Here are some simple tips that’ll help you or help you coach other people in becoming more comfortable on camera.

Have a great posture

Standing tall and confident on camera is the first step in looking confident.


First you’ll need to find your center by standing up straight and tall. To do that, keep your chin level with the ground, push your shoulders back, and your stomach in. Let your arms fall naturally at your sides.

Place your feet about shoulder-width apart, the same stance you would use for working out.

Imagine a string holding you up. As you stand tall, imagine a string is coming from the ceiling, pulling you upwards. Keep your lower back inline, and don’t move to your tiptoes. 

You can use this visualization technique to help guide others into the proper standing position.

Smile at the camera

Smiling is a natural way to feel at ease. Even fake smiling can help you!

A warm and genuine smile can do wonders at making you look at ease on camera.

Talk about things that you are passionate about

The best way to get someone to brighten up on camera is to get them talking about something they are actually interested in. The camera is able to pick up on the smallest of gestures to faking excitement is not an option!

Either choose the topics that you know you can get excited about – or select someone who can get excited about that particular topic. It’ll make the video far better – trust me!

Capture B-roll footage

The last thing to mention is to look around the room and environment to see if there’s any extra footage and b-roll footage that you can capture that you may have missed during the location scouting portion of the planning.

I use these a lot to smooth over any edits and provide shot variety when editing the footage together.

That then brings us to post production…

3. Post-production

Post production refers to all of the parts of producing a video that happens after shooting and recording.

This section also has an incredible array of skills that you need to gain – so if in doubt leave it to a professional editor as it takes a long time to get a feeling for what makes a video sem natural.

This is the broad process of post production:

Editing

The editing software is the command module for the post production process.

The raw footage is transferred to and editing system. In the past, I’ve used Sony Vegas and Adobe Premiere Pro. A rough edit of the movie is shown to and guided by the director who then provides feedback.

This may also be the time where customers get to give some feedback on the initial editing too.

Audio and music

Audio is so very important and helps set the mood. Here are my favorite places to get music for videos. For a full rundown check out my other article – click here.

FREE Music for videos

When I first started producing videos I wanted some free and copyright free music. Quite often the free music can be lame and repetitive. Once you find a source of good free music you’ll notice it pop up everywhere.

Here’s a rundown on the free music sources that I have personally used in my video projects. Click on the header text for links to the websites.

Bensound

Bensound is a fantastic resource if you are looking for an emotive background track for your video.

When I first found Bensound I was very impressed with the quality of the music. It’s the right balance of corporate and modern without being over the top. There is a huge array of moods that you can choose from and this is one of the best free music resources available.

The music is available under a creative commons license and according to their website:

You can use Bensound’s music available under the Creative Commons License (with the black download button) in your multimedia project (online videos, websites, animations, etc.) for free as long as you credit Bensound.com. Examples of proper way to credit us: “Music: https://www.bensound.com/royalty-free-music or “Music: « Song Title » from Bensound.com”

The one problem with Bensound is that you will find their music everywhere. Not necessarily and issue but, like all free resources, not good if you are trying to produce a lot of videos and want to maintain continuity.

Youtube

Youtube is full of “Royalty free” music that you can download. You can use a Youtube to mp3 converter to grab most of the music. Although, I’m not sure of the legality of this approach.

Also, if you try and download the music from “the link in the description” you’ll end up being redirected to loads of spammy sites and ads…I have never had a good experience by following any link in the comments.

However, There is treasure to be found!

The real gold on YouTube isn’t found by searching for videos – it’s in the creator studio.

Head to your profile and click on YouTube Studio in the menu > scroll down to and hover on other features > Click on Audio library. There you’ll find a load of music and sound effects that you can use for FREE!

The audio library is full of music and is regularly updated. Be sure to check on the usage rights of each music video and make sure that you use the right attribution in your video or comments.

If your main publishing platform is YouTube this may result in backlash in the comments section. YouTubers are very sensitive to “stock music” in the YouTube audio library so you may be better off with another service in that case.

SoundCloud

Soundcloud is a fantastic platform and it’s where I host my podcasts. I’ve not used it much for free music – but it is possible.

The music on SoundCloud is very modern and most of it is really well produced. A lot of music is tagged as royalty free but, quite often, I’m redirected to the artist’s website and have to enter an email address to download the free music. I’ve also been automatically subscribed to their SoundCloud profile too.

I get that this is the way that Soundcloud artists make money and can set up their email marketing lists. But when you just want to download a bit of music, it can get frustrating! Hey, it’s free though!

PAID music for social media videos

Once I used a paid service to grab my music for social media videos I didn’t look back!

There are a huge range of options that cater to every budget. I like the subscription services as they normally have a huge variety of music to choose from. For my daily vlog, I need a lot of original music content. A subscription gives me unlimited access to a large catalog of music.

Here are the two services I have used and recommend as, for me, they represented the best balance between quality and price.

Audioblocks

Audioblocks was my first music subscription service.

It is curated by Storyblocks (a stock footage subscription service) who have since expanded into audio and images. I love Storyblocks and was willing to jump into their audio offering!

Despite my love for their stock video I haven’t warmed up to their audio service as much.

I found the interface hard to navigate at first and it was really hard to find the right piece of music for my videos. They have a wizard for selecting the sort of music you want but it is a bit rubbish.

I found a lot of music to be very corporate and made me cringe. There’s very little quality control (it seems). Even their “not stocky stock music” category was too corporate and stocky for my tastes. So, while there are absolutely some quality tracks to be found I had to dig deeper.

Because I am currently producing and editing a daily vlog the time it took me to find good tracks became a burden.

At the time of writing, the price is $12.41 / month, billed annually. This really is a phenomenal price for such a huge selection of music. I still have an active subscription but I’m not convinced that I will be renewing for another year.

This service is still a great option if you have a limited budget and a lower turnover of video content. Take the time to explore the platform and you won’t regret a year subscription.

Epidemic sound
epidemic sound -music for social media

Epidemic sound is my current first choice when it comes to selecting music for my social media videos. It is only a fraction more expensive than audio blocks and the music selection has a much better consistency.

At the time of writing the cost of a creator subscription is $15 / month and a business subscription is $149 / month.

This is what I love about epidemic sound:

  • The music is modern.
  • The navigation is good (but could be better).
  • The price is reasonable.
  • I actually enjoy listening to the music.

I cannot think of a reason that would cause me to move on from epidemic sound as they are constantly updating their archive and adding new tracks all the time.

Kudos to the team – they have made life as a content creator much easier.

Graphics and special effects

The last aspect of the video in video production is any graphics or special effects that you need to add.

I’ve used After Effects to add motion graphics (like little animations) and effects – like explosions to my videos.

It is another skills that people specialize in – but if you are up for the challenge there are plenty of place to learn motion graphics online.

Final word

So there are the 3 main stages of video production. It is something that cam be very time consuming and tricky to navigate.

However, given the right organisation and lots of preparation it should be a smooth process and allow you to focus on getting the creative juices flowing!